People love to reminisce on the finer things in life. Unfortunately, though, many of those things are in the past and rarely ever come back. Well in the sports gamer's case, two of the finer things in life made a dramatic return in the past year. EA Sports released new versions of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz. While both games are rather fun to play, Dustin Toms and Jayson Young have differed in their opinions on the nostalgia of the two games.
Jayson: Let's talk first about NBA Jam since it made the most gameplay changes compared to its arcade debut.
The "shove" was the go-to defensive move in the coin-operated versions of Jam, but it now takes two successful shoves in a row to jar the ball loose from most players, plus the ballhandler is temporarily invulnerable after receiving the first shove. Shoving down jump shooters is no longer reliable, either, as the defender just clips through the body of the jump shooter when attempting to shove him mid-shot. Something is also out of whack with the shot contesting logic, as you can be right up in a jump shooter's face with a leaping contest, but it seems to have little effect on the better shooters in the game. Add in the new "call for pick" button, and it just seems like EA Sports has pulled a "Roger Goodell" by skewing their modern version of Jam too heavily in favor of the offense. Three-point shooting tandems like Steve Nash/Dan Majerle and Larry Bird/Ray Allen dominate this version of Jam, whereas big men were much better at countering perimeter players in past editions.
Dustin: Those issues are there in Jam, but who cares? This isn't NBA Live of NBA 2K -- this is NBA Jam. I don't care about shoves being perfect or how 3-point specialists are overpowered. Jam was intended to be a fun party game for casual sports gamers. And with your point about big men being worthless isn't even close to being true. When running with a team like Dwight Howard/Shaq, it's nothing less than a block party.
Jam stuck to its roots. It's exactly what EA needed to do to see solid sales numbers. I've been playing NBA Jam since it hit the arcade and this version has everything but nostalgic feel.
Jayson: I thought EA Sports scored a lot of nostalgia points with NBA Jam. All the unlockable characters from the '80s and '90s are fitted with retro uniforms and short shorts. Classic Midway announcer Tim Kitzrow has a huge library of lines for every type of gameplay situation ("Dear Rim, I miss you badly. Hope to see you soon. Love, Chuck."). On Fire Edition may be Kitzrow's all-time best performance on the mic. Even the soundtrack impressed me, with electronic beats that sound right out of a Super Nintendo game.
For me, NFL Blitz is the game whose presentation failed to capture any nostalgia. Pro wrestling takedowns and excessive late hits were what made NFL Blitz a standout in the arcades. Removing the dirty moves and post-play trash talking makes Blitz feel like just another boring football game. The two-man booth of Tim Kitzrow and Brian Haley drains Blitz's excitement level to zero, as both commentators sound bored reading from the kid-friendly, G-rated script. It seems like EA Sports followed the NFL's lead by toning down all aspects of Blitz's game.
Dustin: It goes back to what you were saying about Goodell. His influence in video games is quickly becoming an annoyance. I understand the NFL wants to be viewed as the most professional sport, but when it comes to video games, he needs to stay out of it.
When I first started playing Blitz ages ago, it wasn't about who scored the most points, it was about who could tally up the most late hits. It became a game within the game. With that tiny feature removed, all I see are NFL logos and players running at a quicker pace than they do in Madden. Not even Kitzrow could save this one. You would think his amazing script for NBA Jam would have carried over to Blitz. It didn't.
But I will admit, I'm insanely addicted to collecting cards in Blitz. I've never been a Madden Ultimate Team kind of guy, but something about the Blitz version has sucked me in. Even though Jam is my game of choice, it doesn't offer that separate mode outside of the usual.
Jayson: I agree that NFL Blitz's card-collecting "Elite League" is the most interesting mode in either game, but even it gets boring once everybody's using the same top-tier cards. These Jam and Blitz remakes really suffer from a lack of compelling game modes. A simple season mode with stat tracking would've drastically improved both titles' single player value.
Instead, all you're really getting with either package is the chance to play exhibition games online. I can't help but look at a game like FIFA Street, which offers a number of interesting variations to the default game settings, and wonder why more effort wasn't made to spice up Blitz's and Jam's game modes. Something as basic as the return of the "hotspot" point icons from the home ports of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition would've offered a nice diversion from the core Jam gameplay.
Dustin: If they started adding more features to Jam and Blitz, and made it more like the upcoming FIFA Street, then the price tags would be well above $15. The sales would decrease significantly, especially after the original rerelease of Jam last year.
But again, that's just wishful thinking. We have what was given to us, and personally I can be entertained by both games. Blitz, sans the card collecting, is only OK. I think I'll stick with Jam when I want to play some arcade sports. It has much more of a nostalgic feel than Blitz, plus I'm a basketball junkie. Either way, I'd rather here "BOOMSHAKALAKA!" then "Touchdown, Giants!"
Jayson: If only for the multiplayer action, NBA Jam and NFL Blitz are both worth the $15. They're arguably the most-fun 4-player sports games on the Xbox 360 or PS3, even when compared to pricier $60 retail games. With the possible exception of Blockey, I can't think of any other sports titles that are more fun to play with a group of friends. I just wish both games had made more of an effort to create some engaging single player content. When the party leaves, so does Jam's and Blitz's fun factor.
What does everyone else think? Which is the better game between NBA Jam and NFL Blitz? Let us know in the comments section below!